By JOHN T. WARD
And thanks to a fund drive set up by a stranger, Ricardo Paz now has $3,600 to buy one. But because there’s been a run on bikes triggered by the pandemic, Paz hasn’t been able to find a bike sturdy enough to accommodate his trailer, which carries more than 300 pounds of gear.
So last month, Paz –yes – started pushing his gear to his clients’ homes.
“It’s hard getting up that hill” on West Front Street leading into Middletown, Paz said with a laugh.
On Tuesday evening, the 40-year-old father of four met up at Danny’s Steakhouse on Bridge Avenue with Liz Schuber, who saw Paz featured in a video by News12 reporter and Red Bank resident Brian Donohue in late July.
After she posted a comment on Facebook beneath the video, Schuber said she was impressed to see that Paz was individually thanking everyone who voiced support.
“I just thought that was so honorable,” she said. She reached out to Paz to ask if she could help. She set up a Go Fund Me account that brought in the money, and attention from as far away as California.
Paz “never asked anyone for anything,” said Schuber, who created the account thinking Paz could use an electric bike. But since his bike broke down, the money “is his for whatever he needs.”
Paz, who came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago, calls his lawncare business “A Long Way to Freedom.” He also has a maintenance job at St. Leo’s parish in Lincroft.
Cathy Aldridge, secretary to the school’s principal, calls Paz “the hardest-working guy.
“He’s making America great,” she said.
Restaurateur Danny Murphy said he introduced himself to Paz about a year ago after he was startled to see him pedaling his gear around town. He gave Paz a shout-out on Facebook in August, 2019, as proof that “the American dream is available to everyone if you’re willing to work for it.”
After coming across the post, Schuber reached out to Murphy for an assist, and Murphy wound up taking Paz shopping for a new bike.
So far, after visiting multiple bike shops, Paz has had no luck; his needs are specific, and what he needs won’t be available for months, Murphy said. In the interim, Paz plans to use the money to pay for bike repairs, a custom-built new trailer and to offset lost income.
Schuber, a singer with the wedding band DaddyPop, lives in Toms River, but Paz said he’d have no trouble riding to her house to cut her lawn.
“It would probably take me three or four hours” to pedal there, he said, patting his thighs, “but I could do it, no problem.”